Following the 1987 Constitution, South Korea is a unified
state, presidential republic (called the Sixth Republic).
South Korean politics is personal, and the parties are loose
coalitions. They are constantly disintegrating and new
parties are being formed. Much of the most effective
opposition in South Korea is based in the students, partly
in the Christian churches.
The head of state and the real political leader, the
president, are elected in the general election for five
years. The president cannot be re-elected, a provision that
reflects the country's experiences of abuse of power and
corruption. The president cannot dissolve the National
Assembly, but can take matters directly to the referendum.
He appoints the Prime Minister, but with the consent of the
National Assembly. The President directs with the assistance
of the Prime Minister, which includes the Prime Minister and
between 15 and 30 other ministers and leaders of special
institutions. Active officers in the country's armed forces
cannot be members of the Cabinet.
Legislative power has been added to the National Assembly
(Kuk Hoe), which has no less than 200 members
elected in the general election for four years. The voting
age is 19 years. 245 of the members are selected in
individual circles, the rest according to the ratio method.
In practice, the role of the assembly is somewhat limited,
partly because it only sits in shorter sessions. The
Assembly may recommend the President to set aside the Prime
Minister and may decide to put the President to justice.
South Korea has been dominated by authoritarian
governments. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how KR can stand for South Korea. The military seized power in 1961 and
maintained it in reality until 1981, with constant change of
leaders and widespread use of the state of emergency. Later,
the board gradually became more liberal and democratic.
Administratively, South Korea is divided into nine
provinces (do) and seven urban provinces, and these
again into districts and cities. Since 1961, the local units
were controlled centrally by officials. In 1991, however,
elections were held for the local assemblies, and a certain
degree of local self-government was reinstated.
The country's highest court is the Supreme Court, with a
Justice and up to 13 other judges. The Justice Minister is
appointed by the President, with the consent of the National
Assembly, for six years. He cannot be reappointed. The other
judges are also appointed by the president for six years,
but on a proposal from the Justice, and with the consent of
the National Assembly. Furthermore, there are five appellate
courts, 13 district courts in the major cities and 103 local
courts which are the first instance judges. There is a
family court and a court of administrative proceedings in
Seoul, besides a separate constitutional court and military